Climate & Clean Energy
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#17: What’s the future of emergency medical systems in the age of climate change?

Published on
June 21, 2022
Show notes

In Episode 17, Quinn & Brian ask: What’s the future of emergency medical systems in the age of climate change? Joining us: Jason Friesen, the founder and executive director of Trek Medics, a 501 c3 registered NGO dedicated to creating or improving emergency medical systems in communities without reliable access to emergency care through innovative mobile phone technologies. We talk about the current and future state of emergency medical systems in the age of climate change. Because the big one's coming. Jason would like you to know that they make their services available to all communities, regardless of race, religion, or creed. He's saved six lives since Brian woke up. Want to send us feedback? Tweet us, email us, or leave us a voice message! Links: Trek Medics on Instagram Disaster Preparedness Team Rubicon Charity Navigator Zello 5 steps to emergency response: Can you help? Did you find the patient? Do you need additional resources? Are you able to transport the patient? Did you get to your destination? Jason’s pick for Trump’s Book Club: The Little Prince, by Antoine Saint Exupery Quinn Emmett on Twitter Brian Colbert Kennedy on Twitter Intro/outro by Tim Blane Subscribe to our newsletter and buy cool gear at! Like and share us on Facebook! Check us on Instagram! Follow us on Twitter! Pin us on Pinterest! Tumble us or whatever the hell you do on Tumblr! Ok that’s enough good lord


Quinn: Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett.

Brian: And my name is Brian Colbert Kennedy.

Quinn: And this is Teddy, the Wonder Dog.

Brian: Yay.

Quinn: Today our guest is Jason Friesen. He's the founder and director of Trek Medics, a 501(c)(3)-registered NGO, and they are dedicated to creating or improving emergency medical systems in communities without reliable access to emergency care through innovative mobile phone technologies. They make a point to note, they make their services available in many countries to all communities, regardless of race, religion, or creed.

Brian: Today we talked about the future of emergency medical systems and disaster relief in the age of climate change. We can talk about clean energy and space travel and carbon capture all we want, but the effects are already real and already here, and people like Jason are dealing with it every single day.

Quinn: Yup. Brian, what'd you do today?

Brian: I over-tipped a waiter.

Quinn: Was it yourself?

Brian: No. Dammit.

Quinn: Question. Do you think Jason saved a life before our podcast today?

Brian: Oh, it's very likely.

Quinn: The odds are pretty damn good, right?

Brian: What time is it in Costa Rica? Same as here?

Quinn: I have no idea.

Brian: Okay, I don't know if you know about time zones.

Quinn: It's not my business, man.

Brian: He's doing pretty unbelievable work.

Quinn: Definitely at least one before or after.

Brian: Oh yeah, right now.

Quinn: Right. Not during.

Brian: As we record this introduction.

Quinn: As we record. True. Sure. Teddy, what'd you do today?

Brian: Besides look so cute.

Quinn: He literally snored through half the episode.

Brian: We have editors for that.

Quinn: You know what he did though? More than a fucking cat.

Brian: You don't need to come cat bash here.

Quinn: Are you a cat guy?

Brian: Yeah. Proudly.

Quinn: Devastating.

Brian: Come on.

Quinn: Really?

Brian: First he shaves his beard, how he's a cat guy. What's wrong with this guy?

Quinn: Quick, name three benefits of cats.

Brian: Support system.

Quinn: Wrong. Cats are monsters.

Brian: They are not monsters. Listen-

Quinn: Cats would kill you if they could.

Brian: They get a bad rap because some of them are shitheads, but there are some nice cats. Wonderful cats, and they're so funny, and they're sort of stuck up, but in a fun way. I don't know.

Quinn: Anyways. Fucking cats. This is a friendly reminder that our online store is now open. We've got T-shirts and new T-shirts. We've got coffee containers that are great.

Brian: Yeah, they are.

Quinn: And we've got hoodies. They're really comfortable, and those are great. Perfect timing for us, because it's going to be fucking summer, but there's quite a bunch of hipsters who don't care that it's 90 degrees, and they insist on wearing them, so we'll just provide them and cater to those people.

Brian: Yeah, let them be available for them, with their scarves and their boots.

Quinn: And what are the big beanies that hang off the back of their heads to cover their top knot?

Brian: Oh yeah. Do they have a special name?

Quinn: Are there still top knots?

Brian: Oh yeah.

Quinn: Did you do one?

Brian: For a little bit.

Quinn: You did?

Brian: No, it wasn't long enough to do top, but I did the ... What do you call it?

Quinn: Oh God.

Brian: Yeah, well, we all go through phases.

Quinn: It was like six months ago.

Brian: You know what's not a phase? That I'm a cat guy.

Quinn: That should be a phase of regret you have later in life, going, "Can you believe?"

Brian: I regret the ponytail thing. I do not regret being a cat guy. We should make underwear for the store.

Quinn: Should we? Yeah? Really? Come on. What, some MeUndies? I've never tried those.

Brian: I see the ads a lot.

Quinn: They're everywhere.

Brian: It's just a bunch of butts.

Quinn: I wore a pair of briefs recently.

Brian: What, like you don't normally?

Quinn: No, I'm a boxers guy. Are you a briefs guy?

Brian: Full on boxers, or boxer briefs?

Quinn: No, I wear boxers.

Brian: The loose shorts?

Quinn: Yeah.

Brian: Oh my God.

Quinn: What?

Brian: I didn't know people did that still.

Quinn: I do. Oh, this is interesting. Maybe ... I don't know, I don't pay attention to what other people do. I will tell you, though, the briefs, they were fun. They were constricting, obviously, but they were enjoyable, but I will say you have to have the right material.

Brian: Well, what was yours made out of?

Quinn: They got to be breathable. Mine are Patagonia, you know, so they're made from recycled unicorns and repurposed, sustainably harvested sea water.

Brian: Can I wear them one day?

Quinn: What's your brand?

Brian: What's the ... Hanes?

Quinn: Just Hanes? It's like wearing cardboard on your nuts.

Brian: No, no, no, no, they're very comfortable.

Quinn: Really?

Brian: I wear briefs, baby, but you know, small ones. I wear tight pants, so it's hard to even wear a boxer brief-

Quinn: You do wear very tight pants.

Brian: ... let alone boxers.

Quinn: All pants are tight on me, but accidentally, because I have a huge ass.

Brian: You've got a very nice lower half.

Quinn: Brian.

Brian: Yes?

Quinn: Some controversy recently about Asgardia.

Brian: Yes, yes.

Quinn: First of all, didn't know it was a space kingdom.

Brian: That's what I've been calling it this whole time, no?

Quinn: Have you?

Brian: I don't know.

Quinn: Here's the update from Gizmodo. "The self-proclaimed space kingdom of Asgardia is currently limited to a glitchy website." We knew that.

Brian: Yup, that part's true.

Quinn: "And the satellite orbiting the Earth, 'About the size of a loaf of bread,' but Asgardia wants to be much more than just another micro-nation. It aims to join the United Nations and eventually send its citizens, Brian, to lower Earth orbit while they live on habitable platforms and defend the planet." I did not know this.

Brian: We're defending the planet.

Quinn: From space threats.

Brian: Yeah.

Quinn: Okay. "All this is supposed to happen after Asgardia establishes a Parliament from the more than 180,000 people who have registered online as Asgardian citizens, a lax process that in practice requires little more than filling out basic personal details and accepting Asgardia's constitution." How's that going?

Brian: Listen, have you tried to start a whole new nation, let alone a space kingdom? Like, it's going to be hard at first.

Quinn: There's a reason it's called space kingdom, because they continue, "Asgardia's eccentric founder stands accused by some of his fellow Asgardians of harboring an authoritarian streak."

Brian: And apparently also, like, secretly hand-picking who's going to run the nation, so that they can do his bidding.

Quinn: "Asgardia's first elections have been plagued by issues ranging from a buggy website to poor vetting procedures." I got to be honest. That's a problem everywhere these days, not just these childlike space nations.

Brian: Not just Asgardia.

Quinn: "But apparently there were some candidates hand-picked by Asgardia's ruler to win, so they could secretly do his bidding when Parliament officially begins."

Brian: I was not one of those people.

Quinn: No?

Brian: Shocker.

Quinn: So interesting. But you have a podcast.

Brian: Yes.

Quinn: They said, "We brought with us all the old reflexes of Earth's politics. It's disappointing."

Brian: Yeah, that's one of my fellow citizens, Nissem.

Quinn: Had to see that coming, though?

Brian: You know, you go into something like this with blinders on, I think, because you're so excited about defending the planet and living in lower Earth orbit.

Quinn: Cart before the horse, a little bit.

Brian: Little bit, yeah.

Quinn: Did they think that people were going to act differently?

Brian: I don't know. I don't have all the answers to the questions.

Quinn: Question. It says they wanted these people to do his bidding once Parliament is enacted.

Brian: Right.

Quinn: Great. What are the three things you think he would want them to do immediately after, I guess, making a constitution.

Brian: I don't know this man. I'm not sure what his motivations are.

Quinn: You signed up to be a member of a kingdom with 180,000 other people, and you don't know who the leader is? Of the kingdom.

Brian: He's the founder of the whole ... He's not the leader. He's not going to tell me what to do.

Quinn: Sweetheart, that's how a kingdom works.

Brian: This is all hearsay, okay. We don't know. Oh, because somebody on Gizmodo wrote an article. Gizmodo. I'll write an article.

Quinn: Let's see it. That's great. We'll put it on the blog. All right, well, we'll get updates there as to whether Brian listens to the king of the kingdom of Asgardia that he doesn't know what he signed up for.

Brian: It seems like it's going to be a good time.

Quinn: It seems like it was going to be that way.

Brian: Imagine. It's all started from a loaf of bread. That's what we'll get to say.

Quinn: Yeah, and that's what they said about Wild Wild Country, too, and look how that's working out.

Brian: Oh yeah, that wasn't good.

Quinn: Yeah, not great, Bob. All right. Let's go talk to Jason.

Brian: All right.

Quinn: Our guest today is Jason Friesen, and together, we're going to discuss the future of emergency medical systems and disaster relief in the age of climate change, because we're here. Jason, welcome.

Jason Friesen: Thank you. Thank you, Quinn. Pleasure to be here. Thanks for the invitation.

Quinn: For sure.

Brian: Jason, tell us real quick who you are and what you do.

Jason Friesen: Right, so I'm a paramedic by training, and I am the founder and executive director of a non-governmental organization called Trek Medics International. The long and short of what we do is that we improve emergency medical systems in communities with unreliable access to emergency care and transport, so our catchy tagline is, "911 where there is none."

Quinn: Oh, that's so good.

Jason Friesen: It's great. I love it too, but it doesn't translate very well in countries where 911 is not the-

Quinn: Isn't that where the majority of the work is, in other countries?

Jason Friesen: Yeah, exactly, so that is definitely a North American-centric tagline. Really, what it is is we improve emergency medical care anywhere. Anywhere there's a mobile phone signal.

Quinn: Got it.

Brian: So you're completely unimportant, is what you're saying.

Quinn: Maybe you could tell us a little bit about exactly how that works and how you guys work, and what you mean by, "Anywhere there's a mobile phone signal."

Jason Friesen: Right, so most people don't recognize or aren't aware of this. I should say, most people in the wealthiest nations aren't aware of this, that when you leave the top, let's just say the OECD nations, the top 25 wealthiest countries, most other countries in the world don't have a simple number to call like 911 in case of emergency, and as it turns out, you're oftentimes left on your own if there's a car wreck, if a woman goes into childbirth, if you are on vacation and you get food poisoning, or you know, whatever other emergency medical situation that could arise. I would estimate 80% of the world's population has no way to call help when and where it's needed. The reason for this ... There are many, many reasons for this, but largely what it comes down to is communications, and historically, if you think about ...

Jason Friesen: Let's just talk about the United States, because that's a common reference point here. We started building our emergency medical systems formally back in the '60s, and they started using radios, and then they started integrating landline connections to talk to people, and they started bringing in CB radios or different kinds of communications tools, but all of them were based on communicating with an ambulance, and they were receiving calls from people who were calling via landlines. We built up this huge infrastructure that was very largely based on landline communications systems, and in low and middle income countries, very few of them have the penetration that we did in the United States and Canada for landline telephones, meaning in the United States, every house had at least one landline phone, right? Office buildings, everybody had one.

Jason Friesen: In low and middle income countries, that wasn't really the situation, so we have this huge communications infrastructure and technologies that were built up, but they were built up largely for wealthy countries. Then all of a sudden what happened was then the 21st century came alone, and around 2010 or so, all of a sudden now everybody's got mobile phones, and so these countries that formerly didn't have the landline systems and therefore couldn't really implement the 911 systems that we used in the U.S., now everybody's carrying around mobile phones, so they've basically leapfrogged, as I like to say, over the landline systems, and now there's mobile phone penetration up to I think it's something like over 80% of the world's population now has access to mobile phones.

Jason Friesen: This is where we've come in and we've said, "Look, the big problem was always communications, right? If you don't know where the emergency happens and when it happens, it's very hard to notify and coordinate emergency resources in the area," but now that everybody's carrying around mobile phones, it really changes the scenario, the playing field, so to speak. What we've done is we've created this text message-based emergency dispatching platform called Beacon. The way it works is very simple. We started in the Dominican Republic, where now there are multiple communities using ... software, and the way it works is, for example, somebody will see a car wreck at the bridge. We'll just say there's a car wreck at the bridge. They will call the local fire department and say, "There's a car wreck at the bridge."

Jason Friesen: Whoever answers the phone at the fire department takes that information, enters it into our platform, and then sends it out as a text message to all of the trained responders in the community, so everybody who's been trained and registered gets this text message on their phone that says, "There's an accident at the bridge. Can you help? If the answer is yes, tell us how long it'll take you to get there." Let's say we send this message to 45 people. We don't want 45 people showing up at the bridge, so as people respond saying, "I'm five minutes away. I'm 10 minutes away. I'm 20 minutes away," Beacon will basically triage the responses that come in, and it'll say, "You, yes. Go right now. You, you're too far. You over there, hold on. We might need you, but if we can find somebody closer quickly, we're going to take them instead." It triages until it meets whatever quota it's looking for, and the dispatcher can say, "I want five people."

Quinn: Is that triage done manually, or is it sorted by a system?

Jason Friesen: It's all automated, yeah. It's an algorithm, and that's really a big change right there, honestly, is that if you look at the way we do it in the United States, and I'm being a little bit reductive here, but if you look at what we do in the United States with dispatching, it's very much this puppet master approach, where the dispatcher is getting on the radio and saying, "Unit 415, you go. Unit 416, we don't need you," and moving chess pieces around on the game board, so to speak. Honestly, that's just legacy methods that we're doing because of the technology that they built these systems with, but now everybody's using mobile phones, so we built it into the platform so that it automates that triage, and it'll pick whoever's closest, and whoever's got the most appropriate resources.

Jason Friesen: What that means is if five people on motorcycles say, "We can go," and we're only looking for five people, well, what if there's somebody who needs to be transported? A motorcycle's not going to do it for them, so our software will say, "Okay, the fifth motorcycle, we're not going to take you. We're going to find somebody who's got a patient transporter vehicle," like an ambulance if they've got it, or a taxi, if they don't, or even, quite honestly, a pickup truck. Yeah, so that's all built into it.

Quinn: It makes so much sense, and I assume your system, and because of the places you've rolled it out, doesn't require, "Smart phones," it sounds a lot like the way banking has rolled out across Africa, because, like you said, of the penetration of some form of mobile phone, they cut out brick and mortar entirely, but these people, for the first time, have access to banking functions, and to pay their bills, and to microloans and things like that. That's changed the continent in a lot of ways.

Jason Friesen: Yes. You're absolutely right. When we started with Beacon, the whole point was that it needed to be accessible to the most number of people, and the best way to do that was SMS, and at the time, the countries we were working in, there weren't a whole lot of smart phones. Over the past couple years, though, that's changed really quickly, and last year, we got so lucky to have gotten a grant from Twilio, which is an internet text message-based company, and they gave us a grant to build the mobile app version, so now if you've got a smart phone, you can use this with push notifications, and in an app, you receive the alerts and all of that. If you don't have a smart phone or you don't have internet connection, then you can switch it to SMS and go back to the SMS version, so it's all ... that way.

Brian: Man. Nice.

Quinn: I love it. Well, thank you for the background on that. I think that's going to help illustrate for everybody sort of the context for where you're coming from in our conversation today.

Brian: Yeah, yeah. Let's set up our conversation today. We are big believers in questions, and because questions demand answers, and answers that are actionable, and that's exactly what we need right now is things that Quinn and I, and everybody listening, and everybody out there can do to help people like you. We're going to get down to some specific steps that everyone can take to make changes in our crazy little world.

Quinn: Jason, we start with one mildly provocative but fun, important question to really get at the heart of why you're here today. Of course, here means existentially, and also on our podcast. Instead of saying, you know, "Tell us your life story," we like to ask, "Why are you vital to the survival of the species?"

Jason Friesen: Why am I vital?

Brian: You, specifically.

Quinn: Be bold, be honest.

Jason Friesen: I don't know if I'd ever say I'm vital. I think that I could be replaced quite easily, but I think the role that I'm filling at the moment is vital because there aren't a lot of people focusing on emergency medical systems, and when I say that, I mean, pre-hospital emergency care. How do you get people to the hospital on a daily basis? When you look at NGOs, the word, "Emergency response," can get thrown around and used in all sorts of things, but as a paramedic or EMT or firefighter, any kind of first responder, when you think of emergency response, we typically think of the day to day stuff, you know, the daily routine emergencies, the small-scale disasters, whereas when you look at NGOs and international aid, and humanitarian aid, when they're talking about emergency response, they're talking about these big, catastrophic things, whether it's a hurricane or whether it's an Ebola breakout.

Jason Friesen: My whole philosophy has been that, and this is coming from a paramedic, is that if your community can't reliably respond to a car wreck or a woman in childbirth, then you don't have much hope when the big one comes. I think the role that I'm filling right now is vital because we're focusing on building these community systems, true community resilience, so that when those big events happen, they've got the infrastructure in place to deal with it. People ask me all the time, "Well, how's Beacon going to change in a disaster? What does Beacon do for us in a disaster?" The answer is, "It does exactly the same it would do in your day to day operations. It just allows you to do it at a bigger scale."

Quinn: And a practice.

Jason Friesen: Yeah.

Quinn: It's not coming from nothing.

Jason Friesen: Right, exactly. And how do emergency operations change ... How does the role of an ambulance personnel, like a paramedic or an EMT, how does their role change between their day to day operations and after a hurricane? They're working harder. They're still picking up patients. They're treating them. They're stabilizing them. They're transporting them, but they're doing it likely at a much higher rate, and they've got a whole lot more obstacles to overcome, but their job is still the same.

Quinn: This is what they do, and this is what Beacon is here for. It's almost like the ridiculous action movie quote, "We've been preparing for this day our entire lives."

Jason Friesen: Exactly. You just turn the volume up, is really what happens.

Quinn: Sure. All right, so let's establish some context for today's question, which we kind of talked around a little bit. We do a little fun thing called Context 101 with Professor Brian. It's horribly oversimplified, dangerously off course at times, and sometimes wrong, but that's why we've got our resident paramedic emergency medical systems operative here to correct us. Just a reminder, we are not professional airline pilots. Brian, talk to us today.

Brian: Absolutely. I got some stats here for you. Get ready. All right, so the number of Americans registering for disaster aid jumped tenfold last year, in 2017, which is 4.7 million Americans, about 1.5% of the population, registered. We spent over $300 billion in the U.S. alone, and most of that's on U.S. taxpayers. Three hurricanes, Harvey, Irma, and Maria, collectively affected an area of about 8% of the U.S. population. Harvey set a record for rainfall, and then the wildfires in California were some of the costliest-

Quinn: Down the street.

Brian: Yeah, yeah. No big deal. There were 16 disasters last year that totaled over a billion dollars in damage each.

Quinn: In the U.S.

Brian: In the U.S. only, and all this happening in the third-hottest year ever, with all 50 states having temps above average, and again, this is just in the U.S. we're talking here. We can afford to pay these bills, even if FEMA has effectively removed climate change from its planning, despite the fact that we should obviously be spending an equal amount trying to prevent or mitigate them. We can't prevent them completely, of course, but they're getting worse.

Quinn: The disasters, not FEMA. I mean, I guess FEMA is at times.

Brian: Right. To be clear, the disasters are getting worse. What about other countries, developing countries, low-lying countries, or more specific to our conversation today, countries with nonexistent or poor emergency medical systems, like the Dominican, still reeling from disasters from fucking half a decade ago?

Quinn: Right, places where Jason isn't, and have to build up from nothing. There's no Beacon to practice from.

Brian: Over 80% ... What'd you say, Jason, over 80% of the whole world doesn't even have a number to call? That seems crazy to me.

Jason Friesen: That's my back of the envelope estimate, but I stand by it.

Quinn: It's pretty gnarly.

Brian: Yeah, so heat waves have grown more numerous and hotter. Higher temps lead to more drought, obviously. Crops are dying. There's no water. Hurricanes have become far wetter, leading to much more flooding.

Quinn: But you can't drink water.

Brian: That's water that you don't want to drink.

Quinn: Tell us why.

Brian: Well, flooding means more water-born and vector-born diseases. Typhoid fever, cholera, hepatitis A, malaria, Dengue, yellow fever, West Nile fever. I mean, just saying them is gross. This is the new reality, and while it might seem like these things are freak occurrences, most of them are seasonal, and some places are already being and will continue to be affected more than others.

Quinn: It doesn't feel like the future we were promised. It's like flying cars? Nope, we got devastating floods, cholera, wildfires, and I guess, San Francisco has electric scooters.

Brian: Yeah, electric scooters don't prevent hurricanes, that I know of.

Quinn: Or typhoid.

Brian: Yeah, but I'm not a doctor.

Quinn: All right, look, it's not all doom and gloom, though, right?

Brian: No, there's tremendous progress on the clean energy front, and we're not all going to die.

Quinn: Teddy's going to ... Super dog, Teddy's going to make it.

Brian: He's so cute. But people are being affected, and we need to talk about how we can best help them.

Quinn: Right, and it does start ... It's super helpful when it starts on a day to day basis, and these people that are on the ground doing these things and know the country, and the land, and the people, and the local governmental obstacles to be practiced at that when, like Jason said, the volume gets turned up. With that for some context, thank you Brian, let's focus on our topic this week. What's the future of emergency medical systems and disaster relief look like in the age of climate change? Jason, where are you today? We were talking about this before we got started.

Jason Friesen: I am in Costa Rica.

Quinn: Is that home base for you guys, or is that the next place of operations?

Jason Friesen: We are working on programs here with several different partners, and Costa Rica, they're kind of like Indonesia in that they got a little bit of every disaster threat possible. They have earthquakes, they have active volcanoes. Last year they had a devastating hurricane. They're also surrounded on two sides at least by water, so they're very much affected by sea level changes.

Quinn: It's funny. I talked about this on our last episode, which will have come out by the time this does, but I just recently spent some time down the U.S. in the British Virgin Islands with some family that lives down there, and spent my whole live down there. They're obviously all still recovering from two category 5 hurricanes in eight days, eight months later. My friends mentioned, "Oh, and we also had a small earthquake last week," and you forget that they're on the Puerto Rican fault line. It's just like, "Give me a break, man." As we understand it, your gig is primarily providing and building up what you call Beacon, emergency medical systems in rural and developing areas. I want to talk about how the changing climate affects your operations, and your thoughts and plans for the future. Talk to me how about it has evolved and will continue to evolve over time.

Jason Friesen: Yeah, so I think that last hurricane seasons was, for anybody who is invested in this kind of stuff, involved in disaster response and whatnot, and emergency medical systems, last year was kind of a bellwether of things yet to come, both the good and the bad. The bad being, as we were just talking about, there's a whole lot more of this going on, and it's not looking like it's going to slow down. The good, which also was mentioned, is the number of people who are getting involved. I think that this is very much because of mobile phone technology. Like I was saying before, in terms of it used to be ... Well, in many places it still is that there's this centralized call center, the 911 call center where you have dispatchers who are largely communicating with professional responders, full-time or volunteer, but trained, equipped responders. That has kind of created a gatekeeper scenario.

Jason Friesen: Here's an example. Harvey happens. When a city gets flooded, everything gets flooded, including the fire departments, the police departments, the ambulance stations. They get flooded too, so then, if the 911 call center isn't flooded, it's definitely overwhelmed with calls for help, and very quickly, they're resources are outstripped, and they can't do it. Then you have things like the Cajun Navy show up with their air boats, with their swamp boats, and it's like, well, these are not trained, "Official responders." The beautiful thing that happened in Harvey was they were like, "Get them out there. We need their help," but the challenge was, how do you incorporate them into the formal response system, the formal communication system? That's what we're trying to work on now as well. We actually just got a grant from Cisco Systems, and what they wanted us to do was they asked us if we could make Beacon disaster-friendly.

Quinn: Are they just providing a grant, or are they providing networking knowhow? I'm curious.

Jason Friesen: Yes. They've provided a cash grant, but they've also pledged networking connections. They've put us in touch with a lot of their other existing partners, and the promotional aspect of it too, getting the word out and spreading it about what we're doing and how we're trying to help community-based services prepare and respond to these types of events. What it means to make Beacon disaster-friendly is right now, the only way you can get up and using Beacon is if you talk to our staff, and they sign you up for the account, they set it up, they give you access, and we're in the way. We're the bottleneck, so what we're doing right now is we're changing it so that any agency, organization, or quite honestly, individual, will be able to come to the website, register an account.

Jason Friesen: Then they'll be able to learn how to use Beacon, design, test, launch, and be ready to scale their own emergency communications system by themselves in less than 30 minutes. It's essentially a do-it-yourself 911 system. The goal with this is that, again, as long as there's a mobile phone connection, they'll be able to launch this system and start dispatching the community responders, what they call the emergent groups, the spontaneous volunteers, and they'll be able to register them on the platform and start dispatching them as if they were a formal resource that was always getting dispatched, as long as they've got a phone.

Quinn: I was down in Houston with family doing a bunch of recovery stuff for a little bit, and again, so much credit to the folks like the Cajun Navy and all those people who stepped up, but 2008 to '17 provided so many incredible digital tools to sort of crowdsource help, but again, it was all sort of one-off things and newfangled pieces that were pulled together by a variety of folks and apps to source that volunteer coverage. Enormous credit to all the people and all the things and the services who contributed their time and efforts to make that happen and to help, but when you can build something like this that then other communities can use almost off the shelf, it becomes a system that people know, or at least the setup is a little more recognizable, which hopefully makes it a little more efficient and easier to get off the ground. Does that make sense?

Jason Friesen: Yeah.

Quinn: It's not that much of a learning curve. It's just like, "We got it. We unbox it. We use it here," and obviously, every area and disaster is going to have its own complications, but you can plan for that and adapt those things. The more it's sort of off the shelf, theoretically, the easier it is, and more efficient it is for everyone.

Jason Friesen: Yes. You're 100% correct. As a side thing, since my paramedic ambulance days, I'm on a federal disaster response team called DMAT, Disaster Medical Assistance Team, and we got deployed to Texas right before Harvey hit. We're a team of like 75 people, so big team. We set up basically field hospitals, and because we're a federal team, and a large one, it takes a little bit more time to move these resources around, so right after landfall of Harvey, we were in a hotel waiting for our orders, and I was watching on TV, and I'm seeing all of these volunteer responders popping up, and my question, myself, is, "How are they getting dispatch? Who's communicating? Who's telling them where to go?" What they're doing is, like you said, they're using off the shelf things like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

Quinn: There was a specific app that everyone used that I became so reliant on. Now I've totally blacked out on what it was.

Jason Friesen: Zello? Is it Zello?

Quinn: I think it was Zello, yeah, and it was incredible. You could tune right in, and we were just driving around a U-Haul truck that I had used to pick up supplies from wiped out of Wal-Mart and a Target, and took them all down from Dallas, and then we just kept it, and Zello directed us to just people's homes who needed bailing out, and that became the thing.

Brian: That's wild.

Quinn: In two days, even if you weren't tech-savvy, everybody knew what Zello was.

Brian: Damn.

Jason Friesen: yes, and that's the beauty of these technologies is they're out there, and you can put them together and make something out of them. Whenever we talked, anybody we talk to these days, in developing countries in particular, they're using either Zello or WhatsApp to communicate, but they weren't designed specifically for this. They were designed to provide a capability, but they weren't necessarily designed to be implemented in these scenarios, and the problem with them is that they don't scale very well, so if we need a fire department in Mexico, let's say, and they have five to 10 responders, and they respond to one incident, two incidents a day, then we say, "You know what, you don't really need our software. WhatsApp is going to be fine for you. A chat group," but if you turn that into tens or hundreds of responders with multiple incidents going on at the same time, then an open chat group is chaos. It's just an unwieldy beast. Same thing with Zello. There's a lot of backup going on. There's a lot of cross chatter. What we've said with our platform is, "Look, we're not going to ever replace radios, but what we can do with Beacon is drastically reduce the need for radios by getting rid of the redundant communications."

Quinn: Sure, and like you said, also, that department, that small town department, might not need it right now, but let's say ... Because again, everyone is going to be touched by one of these disasters at some point or in some way. When the volume is turned up, wouldn't it be great to have a system you can already rely on and are familiar with?

Jason Friesen: Yeah. Yes, exactly, and one of the advantages we have, to your point about getting to learn to use it really quick is, we originally developed this focusing on low-literacy communities, and with that in mind, we've always put a premium on making it as easy as possible to learn and understand.

Quinn: Lowest common denominator.

Jason Friesen: Yes, exactly. We got a real leg up on that, and so now, when we meet agencies, departments, or just responder groups that have experience already involved in emergency response of some type, they look at our platform and they get it. They just intuitively get it, like, "Oh, yeah, this makes total sense." Normally what they use is something called a computer-aided dispatch system, like a CAD, and what we've essentially done is really simplified a CAD and put it on your phone, and so anybody who's got a phone can start setting up their own communications systems. Thanks to the Cisco grant, we're going to built that even more so.

Quinn: Got it. Well, I'm excited to see what comes of that. It's super curious.

Brian: Yeah.

Jason Friesen: Yes. We're only a couple months away. We're excited and curious as well.

Brian: Let's talk about the reality here. Are we already on the back foot when it comes to disaster relief? The San Juan mayor came out today and said they're fighting two disasters, the really, the hurricane, and then the relief nightmare they've been dealing with ever since it.

Jason Friesen: Yeah, so I think that looking at Puerto Rico, that's going to be a story that we're going to hear a lot more regularly and frequently.

Brian: Sadly, that's true.

Jason Friesen: I used to live in San Diego, California, and San Diego is in a real tough spot where one bad hurricane and San Diego becomes essentially an island.

Quinn: Yeah, it's pretty unbelievable.

Jason Friesen: Though it's a part of the mainland, the access to San Diego is limited to a few roads, and if a bad earthquake were to happen, or whatever the case, and those roads were taken out, then San Diego's going to be like Puerto Rico. It's going to be an island.

Quinn: Right, and again, each place has its own complications. Puerto Rico, that place has been a disaster waiting to happen, and not their own fault, because of their crazy statehood status, or lack thereof, for however many years. They were talking about bankruptcy before this even happened, so infrastructure-wise, it was just the worst possible place for that to happen, and yet San Diego, while more well off, what happens to the naval base when that happens? It's incredible. Like you said, it can literally become an island.

Jason Friesen: Yeah. Things can change very quickly and very drastically. The good thing is, in the U.S., there are a lot of different ways for people to get involved. I mentioned the DMAT team, but that's a federal thing, and that's a little more-

Quinn: You're the Avengers, basically.

Jason Friesen: Yeah, that's a little more particular, but their medical reserve corps, there's community emergency response, CERT teams. There's all sorts of things that people have, and especially when you get into rural areas, they don't have these formal organizations, but by virtue of living in a rural area, people understand, "We're on our own out here. We've got to rely on each other," so you get very tight-knit community groups, or just family and social bonds, and very much in a good position to turn themselves into a self-sustaining response team that can help people who've been affected. That's the good thing, but people ask me all the time, "Well, what happens if the cell phone towers go down?"

Jason Friesen: The reality for us is, "We can't help you at all. We need a mobile phone connection. We don't need internet, but we need a mobile phone connection." The good news is that I was reading a study that they said, you know, remember Katrina ... This was well before cell phones had proliferated to the point that they are, but in Katrina, they lost 80%, I think it was, of their cell phone towers, and they were down for a long time. I read in Houston that they only lost, I think it was something like between 20 and 30% of their cell towers, and most of them were back up, I think it was within a week. My numbers aren't exact, but it was a huge change from Katrina, a little over 10 years ago.

Quinn: But you know, on the other hand, and I don't know the statistics on Puerto Rico, but again, having just been down in the Virgin Islands, both British and the U.S., their cell phone towers all went down for quite a while, and that made it incredibly difficult to organize anything, to get anything done, to even get word out to loved ones that you were still alive, or what the condition of their homes were, or things like that. I don't know what the answer is there. You were talking a little bit about the tight-knit organizations and all of these different teams that are in the U.S. versus other places. Talk to us a little bit about the global roles of governmental response versus private or NGO responses, and you know, feel free to use an example, either hypothetical or something like Puerto Rico or Costa Rica to sort of illustrate how the ... I know that this is probably asking for it, but a typical response, how that machine works. Let's say, hurricane.

Jason Friesen: Outside of the United States.

Quinn: Yeah, and we've got listeners in like 30 countries now, so while it's heavily American, we're lucky to be able to have what we have here, even if people refuse to pay for it. Yeah, talk to me about when it happens in somewhere like Costa Rica.

Jason Friesen: It's a difficult question because it all comes in so many different shapes and sizes, and the degree to which international NGOs get involved has very much to do with the amount of attention it gets from mainstream media, so to speak, if I'm allowed to use that term. I mean, the best example I can give is Haiti, which was at the time, an anomaly, but is actually very much becoming the norm for international response to major catastrophic events. In Haiti, while there were so many problems, it's not any one smoking gun, or one silver bullet. I was sent to Haiti on a team shortly after the earthquake, and one of the really big problems there was that right off the bat, most of the UN employees who were assigned to the Haiti mission were killed in the earthquake. The UN offices collapsed, including the head of the mission.

Jason Friesen: I remember watching afterwards on a documentary about a guy who was the de facto ... He became the head of the UN mission in Haiti because everybody above him had died, and he said, "We had a decision to make. We knew that the problems were so big that if we tried to set up a way to vet all of the NGOs and foreign governments that were coming in and try to make them register, we were going to have a huge bottleneck that was going to prevent much-needed aid from getting to the people." He said, "What we decided was to basically lay down and just open the borders up as quickly as they could come in, and let it go from there." There was a total lack, at the outset, and some would argue for long after that, a total lack of coordination among the different international players, but I think that that kind of a thing is going to start becoming normal because one, there's so much more media out there.

Jason Friesen: People are reporting locally. It's very easy to become a local reporter, so there's a lot more media that these events are getting, but also, Haiti kind of ... I don't know what the word I'm looking for necessarily is, but it kind of validated, I guess you can say, the need for these immediate response teams. There are a lot of people who can look at Haiti and say, "Look, all of the big agencies take way too long to get started. We just need people down there making things happen while they get their gears going," so we're going to have these small, compact teams that are going to get down, start delivering aid, and hopefully will be able to transition to the larger aid agencies when they come in with all their supplies.

Quinn: Sure, because the machine does take a while. I got down to Houston a few days after the storm. I have a bunch of little kids, so my house has been filled with diapers for six years, permanently, and my contact at the relief shelter, where they were using the big football stadium down there on Reliant, and she said, "Oh, we've got about a million diapers coming, but they won't be here for five days," and my just immediate thought was, "You need diapers last night." It's incredible. All these amazing companies and organizations just donated a million diapers, which is amazing and great, but five days, I mean, it's catastrophic, and for these children and their mothers, it was incredible.

Quinn: I just tried to wipe as much you can, and as much as they were like, "Oh, hey, we didn't know you were coming and this is the truck," which is, again, part of the organizational problem, can often cause more trouble than it's worth. At the same time, it felt like something that was the most specific applicable thing I knew that I could make a difference in. Something had to hold the tide, and that was in a place where I could just drive to. I could drive down to Dallas, but like you said, that doesn't exist in Costa Rica and Puerto Rico or these Central American countries, or in Indonesia.

Jason Friesen: It's very hit or miss. A lot of times, these supplies do exist, but they are perhaps logically centered in the big cities. Costa Rica, the capital is San Jose in the central valley, and so all the resources, generally speaking, are centralized there, but there are huge swaths of the population that live in coastal areas that are very difficult to get to. It's like, there is this balance where you need these small, compact response teams that can get out there quickly, but you also need to be able to track them and keep tabs on them, not just for transparency's sake, but also for any transition so that when the big guys come along, there's a handover, so to speak. Like on the ambulance, we hand a patient over to the doctor and the nurses, and we give a report. There's a corollary to that with these small disaster response teams handing over their operations to a larger aid relief agency with much more capacity.

Jason Friesen: I don't know anybody who's really found it, or I haven't really seen where it's happened, though it certainly could have happened, but there is a balance between letting these small groups get in there and do their thing, but also trying to keep track of them and keep tabs on them so they're not just out there footloose, fancy free, doing whatever. It's a challenge for all governments. I ended up living in Haiti for two years, and started working at different times with the Ministry of Health, and talking with the ministers, the government officials working in the Ministry of Health in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. It sounded like an absolute nightmare scenario on top of the actual nightmare of the disaster, but it's like, you know, all of these government and non-governmental organizations are coming in with the best of intentions, and you have a Ministry of Health who, like the UN, lost a lot of their staff in the earthquake.

Jason Friesen: They're, for all intents and purposes, very much affected by the trauma of the disaster, and now, with very few resources, they have to be able to somehow try and organize and coordinate all of these very well intentioned but very motivated and proactive groups coming in wanting to help. You can imagine, right off the bat, that people are like, "Oh, the Ministry of Health, they're telling us to slow down. They don't care about the people." It's like, "No, it's not that they don't care about the people. It's not that they're corrupt." That certainly can happen, but that's, generally speaking, not the situation. It's a matter of capacity. How well can they coordinate all of these foreign teams coming in, and how effectively can they do it, and how do you disperse them? How do you tell people where help is needed?

Jason Friesen: If you look at, again, the Haiti earthquake, right after the earthquake and for months afterwards, the vast majority of the aid didn't get very far away from the airport where everybody came in, and yet the epicenter of the earthquake was quite a ways outside of town. Those people didn't get a lot of the aid until much later, if ever, arguably, and that's because there was a lack of coordination. The capacity wasn't there, so these kind of problems are very common in all massive disasters. I mean, in summary, one time I was at a conference, and there was somebody speaking, and was introduced as an expert in disaster response, and he got up, and the first thing he says is, "I politely decline the title of being an expert in disaster response because the reality is none of us have ever gotten it right." He said, "That isn't because we're not trying. It's because these problems are so complex and they change from location to location that it's almost impossible to get it right."

Brian: Are there any specific executions from recent years that can serve as the best practices?

Jason Friesen: I think that instead of looking at best practices, I would personally be looking more at who had the most valuable lessons learned.

Quinn: Sure. What are the things we're getting better at that can be ... Again, knowing that every situation, the terrain, the geography, the governments, the demographics, and the disaster itself, are different, and innumerable variables, is there anything that can be translated that we've picked up on in the past few disasters?

Jason Friesen: Yes. I think that last year's hurricane season taught us a lot about ... And obviously, this is exactly where we're focused, so I might be a bit biased, but I think last year's hurricanes taught us a lot about crowdsourcing help, about engaging the local community to help and deliver aid, and I think that the professional emergency responders, you know, your trained professionals, are very much acknowledging and becoming very open to finding ways to incorporate this type of community involvement. I've been watching a lot about in Houston how the Houston Office of Emergency Management, they want to know, "Okay, when this happens again, how are we going to be able to better incorporate these spontaneous volunteers, how are we going to be able to manage them, coordinate them, and use them to their greatest impact?" I think that in years past, that hasn't been the case. There's been very much a professional class, and then, "How do we manage all of these spontaneous volunteers that want to do good but don't have any experience?" I think that that kind of perspective is very much changing now, and for the better, and it is very much because of technology.

Brian: In your opinion, I guess, are there specific groups or organizations that are doing really great jobs, other than your own?

Quinn: I know sometimes we hesitate to call out people doing a good job, or not so much. Like the controversy that came out about that the Red Cross got really hammered about for their spending over the past couple decades. It flew under the radar a little bit, and now, of course, we've moved on, and we're moving towards the action steps here. These sort of things, these specifics, are important to our listeners, by the way, because our listeners are activated, and we want to make sure that they feel like their voices and their money and their time are being used in the most efficient manner, and the most productive manner. I guess, speak to it as much as you're comfortable.

Jason Friesen: I spend all of my time thinking about basically one thing. How do we get responders to people that need help, and then get them to where they need to go? What we call pre-hospital emergency care. That's all I focus on, so I don't get too much exposure to people doing WASH, like water, sanitation, security, that kind of stuff. I wouldn't even know much to say about what's good and what isn't, but the organizations that I am aware of are largely in the realm that we are, that I think do fantastic work, is one, Team Rubicon. It's fantastic. I think that they've got it down to a level of organization and logistics that you only find in the military, and that's because they are former military, so they bring all of that experience with them.

Jason Friesen: I think there's another organization called Empact Northwest, and they do a lot in terms of helping local fire departments, local community response groups, in training, and also in preparation, so that when these things happen, they're ready for them. I think that they do great work. They're out of northwest Seattle. Those are the two that stick out to me most, and that's because just who I'm familiar with. But then I think that I followed a lot of these pop-up emergency response groups that happened, like you were mentioning, in Harvey and Irma and Maria, in Texas and in Florida, and I don't know how much they are on the road to formalizing and becoming an actual stand-alone organization, but I think that their experiences have a lot of lessons to learn for other organizations, or other communities that are susceptible to hurricanes could learn from, and in fact, on our website, we posted a blog about this, about how to develop a community response team for the next hurricane.

Jason Friesen: Five simple steps, and this is from our own experience, but also from watching and learning and talking with these other groups that were doing it as well. I think that there is a template out there that is still in its early stages, but I think that going to be a way for these communities to organize, coordinate, and respond to deliver aid as necessary, even if they didn't have the infrastructure in place beforehand, because really, what we've done with Beacon is to say, "Look, let's take the guesswork out of emergency response. If somebody needs help, we know there are five steps that are needed every single time. It doesn't matter if it's a car wreck, or a woman in childbirth, or somebody stuck on their roof after flooding. There are five steps."

Quinn: The method version of your technology, which is not dumbing it down, but dialing it down to its most fundamental pieces, which, again, all of these things are liable to change, and there's a million factors, but there has to be a lowest common denominator. Even just providing that blueprint must be so helpful. Please, continue. Tell us those five steps.

Jason Friesen: Right, so the five steps are one, can you help? Two, did you find the patient? Three, do you need more resources? Four, are you transporting them? Five, did you get to the destination? Those five major steps, it doesn't matter whether, like I said, it's a car wreck or somebody stuck on a roof or a woman in childbirth. You've got to go through those same five steps to locate somebody, assess them, stabilize them, and if need be, transport them. If you can take the guesswork out of that ... Because a lot of people get worked up about, "Well, what if they've got this condition, or what if they've got that problem?" That's got very little to do with the logistics of getting to them and transporting them. That's the medical part of it.

Jason Friesen: If you're not a doctor, you're not a doctor. If you're not a nurse or a paramedic, that's whatever. If you have first aid, though, then you can take that a long ways if you've got this framework to work with. Our job as being involved in this, and organizations working with communities to improve their capabilities, is to say, "Let's take the guesswork out, and exactly like you said, let's get it down to its most fundamental steps." We may not be able to address every single situation, but we can get a large majority of them if we create a template for people to follow.

Quinn: Sure, sure. It just seems so helpful, and like you said, from organizations that are trying to get started up to build something in a local community to people like the Cajun Navy swooping in, I mean ... Jesus, you just text these five steps to people, and just say, "Just follow these, and at the very least, we'll be doing more good than harm."

Jason Friesen: Yes.

Brian: What are some actions that just normal citizens should be taking to assist, knowing full well that they'll get it in the teeth themselves at some point? Should we be volunteering or just donating money to groups like you guys?

Jason Friesen: Well, we would never turn something like that down. 501(c)(3)-registered, yes.

Brian: Got it.

Jason Friesen: Honestly, when people ask, "What can we do?" I think the most important first step that people can take is understand what you're at risk for. How many times are people like, "Whoa, we never knew that we lived in a flood zone, and now our house is filled with water." It's like, that stuff is out there, especially now in the digital age. Communities are getting much, much better about hosting this stuff online. Your local Office of Emergency Management or the county, whatever it may be, find out where are the flood zones. Find out who's in the path of a wildfire, who's more likely to get hit by a wildfire, you know? These kind of things to be aware of the risks. If you're aware of the risks, then you're going to start thinking about them more, and you're going to start seeking solutions.

Quinn: Yeah, and you know, one of the things we've come down to a lot is, as a citizen, try to get that information from your local and state governments. State's more likely to have it, and if your local government doesn't have that, or hasn't done those studies, ask why, and if you don't like the answer, run for office, and do it yourself, because it's necessary at this point. We had a long conversation with Mayor Serge Dedina of Imperial Beach, California. That's 20,000 people, a blue collar town, and they did some infrastructure studies, and they were like, "Oh, look. We're fucked, and we can't pay for it."

Quinn: From there, you look at the reports that came out last year about how many American counties are in the flood plain in the middle of America because of the river flooding, and it's like, look, it's not just the coast and hurricanes. It's not just tornadoes and wildfires. Again, dialing it back piece by piece, if your town or city or county is not prepared for it, is not planning for it, or has not even acknowledged or tried to source out what the ramifications are, or what the dangers are, then take it upon yourself. Do what you can do to work within the community to do those things, because the information, like you said, it's 2018. It's out there now.

Jason Friesen: Yeah. Yes. It's interesting you spoke with Imperial Beach, because I used to work on AMR Unit 413, which was the Imperial Beach ambulance.

Quinn: Whoa.

Brian: Oh, shit. That's crazy.

Jason Friesen: Yeah, and in 2009, I want to say, or maybe 2010, I forget, but I remember we saw one of the first cases of Swine Flu that came across the border. We had no idea what it was. It was a young girl. She was 13, 14 years old, went to bed the night before pretty much in good shape, woke up, felt like she had a fever, and then within an hour, dropped to the ground and was having seizures. Totally unexpected. Where's this coming from? Lo and behold, that was one of the precursors to one of the first cases of swine flu, the H1N1, I think it was, right? Yeah. I believe so.

Jason Friesen: But anyway, yeah, Imperial Beach, they've got all sorts of risks, not only because of, like you said, the earthquake, and because of the coastal area, but also because they're right along the border. Just that awareness of, "What are we at risk for?" hopefully will set you on a trail to then find out, "Well, what do we do if this happens?" If you find out what risks there are, the next thing to ask is, "What has happened when this happened in the past? How did we respond, and what works and what didn't?" Going from there, you're going to be in a lot better shape than most other communities.

Quinn: Sure. All right, let's dig in. I also want to provide a little boost to an organization, Charity Navigator-

Brian: Oh yeah, we talked about them.

Quinn: ... which is a nonprofit themselves. They do a really fantastic job of evaluating everything but the smallest groups, and I think they've got to have two or three years of records to be considered by Charity Navigator, maybe four, of really rating these organizations, and how efficient and economical they are with every dollar that comes in, where they spend it. All the reports are listed there. They give them a rating of up to four stars, but I think people would be surprised to see the ratings of some of these bigger organizations. I think they'd be relieved to see the ratings of some of them. They also do a really good job of breaking these things down into categories and saying, "Hey, these are the best places to spend your money for this sort of thing," with everything from infectious disease to pediatric cancer to flooding relief.

Quinn: Data is good and helpful, and if that's your form of action, is clicking on something from your computer, we'll take it. Again, all we're trying to do is get people to give a shit, and most of our listeners already do. That's why they're here, but to take some action. On that note, what should people be doing with their vote, specifically? Again, we're not doomed, but this is all very real, and no one's going to escape untouched. We're 30 to 40 years behind these emissions, and the action we're taking is working and it's helping, but we need more of it on the prevention side, mitigation, and reaction, like you do, because reacting ... I guess, building an emergency medical services system is sort of a precursor to reaction. It enables you to be able to react, but it is part of adaptation, and that's what we're talking about now.

Brian: Again, what should people be doing with their vote? What questions should they be asking of their representatives, but locally and federally? Keep in mind that we've got listeners in 30 countries now.

Jason Friesen: I think that yes, politicians and elected representatives are important, and I think that they're the end goal, because they're the ones who control the purse strings, but I think that before going to them, I think that I would always recommend, go and talk to the local fire chief. Go and talk to the local ambulance director. Go and talk to the local police chief and say, "What keeps you up at night, and how could that be changed through ... Whether it's legislation or an election, whatever it may be?" Honestly, there are very few politicians out there who come to the office with a lot of experience in disaster response, and that's a good thing. Honestly, that's a good thing, because a lot of the countries that we work in, I've seen it time and time again that there's a catastrophe. Something really bad happens, and the whole country expects the president to start calling the shots.

Jason Friesen: It's like, "No, no, no, no." In the U.S., that's why we have the head of FEMA, or we have whoever it may be. We have something called Incident Command System, which is protocols on how we handle disasters and as they grow in complexity, so things change. Things always change. You got to scale up or you got to scale down, but things don't ever stay the same. So, talking to the heads of your local departments are going to give you all the information you need to know about how your community is prepared for when these things happen. With that information, then it's like, well, you should have a pretty good idea of where to go from there, but there is a lot of sensationalism that goes on, understandably, during disasters, by the media. Haiti was a great example. There was all this talk of looting and all this stuff, and it wasn't going on except where the TV cameras were. It was almost like they were riling them up, so you can only see what their cameras show you. Talking to the local department heads, the fire department, the police department, the ambulance service, whoever it may be-

Quinn: Sure, the people doing it every day, and who inherently know what the strengths and weaknesses are, and how those would be affected when, like you said, the volume gets turned up.

Jason Friesen: Exactly. That's what I would recommend. If you're looking to become politically active about preparedness and response, I would first talk to the people who know most about it, because honestly, whoever's elected, the mayor, the councilmen, selectmen, whoever it may be, they're going to turn around and talk to these guys too, to get advice on where to go next, so it's best to go to the source.

Quinn: And that's a hell of a thing to bring into a city council meeting as a private citizen, is to be able to say, "I've got this firsthand information. It's not a bunch of statistics off my fucking MacBook."

Jason Friesen: Yeah, exactly.

Quinn: Awesome. I really do appreciate that perspective. I think the more we can enable the community interaction on that front, the better.

Brian: Yeah.

Jason Friesen: Absolutely.

Brian: All right, so we're getting close to time here, Jason, and we obviously can't thank you enough for being here, man. Can we ask, who else do you think we should talk to?

Jason Friesen: There are lots of people. What would you like to talk about?

Quinn: Well, you know, again, what we like to talk about is, as we say, the conversations most vital to our survival as a species, but what it comes down to is the scientists, engineers, doctors, even journalists. Shit, man, we talked to a reverend. These people who are the ones on the ground addressing vital topics like these, and really working at it-

Brian: People like you.

Quinn: ... and that can help us formulate action steps for our listeners to be able to take, both with their voice and their vote, and their money, and their time. So, those people. Ass kickers like you.

Jason Friesen: Yeah, thanks. The three people that I could directly introduce you to would be one, my former boss and now the chief of staff for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. He's a guy named Jeff Schlegelmilch, and he actually has a podcast called Disaster Politics.

Quinn: You're going to need to spell that.

Brian: J-E-F-F, or is it G-E-O?

Jason Friesen: S-H-L-E-G-E-L-M-I-L-C-H.

Quinn: Holy cow. We'll put that in the show notes, assuming Brian spelled it correctly.

Brian: I did not.

Jason Friesen: Yup, so he actually does a podcast too, called Disaster Politics, so I think you have a lot to talk about.

Quinn: Sure.

Jason Friesen: The other person I would recommend is called the DMAT Commander. He's the head of my DMAT team out of San Diego, and this guy has been deployed to disasters for the past 30 years, and not only deployed, but has been in charge of managing huge teams in them. He's just got a college course worth of perspective and experience. His name is Dr. Jake Jacoby. J-A-C-O-B-Y. He's now retired, but an emergency physician at UC San Diego. Fantastic experience, will talk, has just a lot of great insights. The third person I would suggest is the executive director of this organization I mentioned called Empact Northwest. E-M-P-A-C-T Northwest. His name is Jake Gillanders. G-I-L-L-A-N-D-E-R-S. They're three very different perspectives. Jeff is policy, very, very good on policy and the politics of disaster. Jake Jacoby is very much federal disaster response and large teams, you know, like large deployments, and then Jake is the small, compact, get in early assessment and immediate relief team.

Quinn: All the pieces of the puzzle, theoretically.

Jason Friesen: Theoretically, yeah.

Quinn: Right. That's awesome.

Brian: Yeah. Thanks, man.

Quinn: We would love those introductions. All right, so let's summarize, and again, there's a lot to do, but let's summarize most specifically what our listeners and action-takers in general can do. Number one is, again, everything is going to happen everywhere. We're all connected and no one's going to remain untouched by this stuff. Be prepared to help with your own two hands, and know those five steps that you described, whether you are a trained emergency responder or you're trying to get your uncle off a roof, or your neighbor, or just someone else who needs it.

Brian: Get the people off the roofs.

Quinn: Right, and we will put all that stuff in the show notes, and maybe we'll make a cool little card that's downloadable. Number two, just understand what you're at risk for. Knowledge is helpful, whether it's knowing a fire escape route or your infectious disease or flooding areas, whatever the issues is. I guess that's related to number three, which is, if you want to take political action, first talk to the people who know it best, your local fire chiefs, ambulance directors, police chiefs, and ask, "What keeps you up at night?" The strengths and weaknesses of your locality. Then theorize, how can that be changed through local elections? How can those things be either built upon or rectified, however much we're able to. You can't change your geography much, but maybe you can say, "Stop building on the wetlands," for example. Does that seem like sort of the three major steps?

Jason Friesen: Yeah. It does sound very good to me. I definitely recommend all those.

Quinn: Awesome. Awesome.

Jason Friesen: I already did, actually.

Quinn: Yeah.

Brian: And you would again.

Jason Friesen: I'll second my recommendation.

Brian: We have just a last few questions for you that we ask everyone on the show, a lightning round, so are you ready?

Jason Friesen: Lightning round? Uh-oh.

Brian: Yes, so be quick.

Quinn: Lightning round, and of course, the first one, I'm realizing, is just not applicable to a lightning round. It's a little more meta than the last two, certainly. Jason, when was the first time in your life when you realized you had the power of change, or the power to do something meaningful for others?

Jason Friesen: Oh, wow. I think the first time I rode along with the New York Fire Department as an EMT Basic. I had to do my ride-alongs to finish the course, and I remember going down to what was then Our Lady of Mercy in the South Bronx ... Or no, it was the North Bronx, and riding along with them and being like, "Wow, these guys are actually having an impact on people's lives directly," and that was really invigorating. It really gave you a charge, like, "Wow. I can make a difference." I think that was probably it.

Quinn: That's awesome. I mean, it is an incredibly direct impact.

Brian: I can't imagine what that would have been like.

Quinn: All right, the actual lightning round.

Brian: Lightning round, go. How do you consume the news, Jason?

Jason Friesen: On my iPhone. I was just organizing my favorites last night, about 15, 20 different websites that I'll go to for news.

Quinn: Please don't say Facebook.

Brian: Number one, Facebook. Number two, Facebook.

Jason Friesen: Nope, Safari browser.

Brian: Awesome. All right. If you could Amazon Prime one book to President Trump, what would it be?

Jason Friesen: The Little Prince.

Quinn: You know what? That's awesome because A. My favorite book, and two, you're the second person to recommend it.

Brian: I was going to say, I thought we heard that before, yeah. Aw, that's so great.

Quinn: It's such a fundamental book.

Jason Friesen: It's short, too. Got lots of pictures.

Brian: Get a quick jab in there.

Quinn: That's usually the first thing people say is, "Wait, is he going to read that? Does he read?" That's awesome. Well, listen, Jason, this has been tremendous, man.

Brian: Yeah, thank you so much.

Quinn: Where can our listeners follow you online?

Jason Friesen: Our website, TrekMedics, T-R-E-K-M-E-D-I-C-S.O-R-G.

Quinn: Okay.

Jason Friesen: It's two words, but we spell it like one for the website, and then also, they can sign up for our newsletter, follow us on Facebook, or Instagram, and sometimes Twitter, but not often.

Quinn: Do you have your Instagram and Twitter handle?

Jason Friesen: It's all TrekMedics, T-R-E-K-M-E-D-I-C-S, for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Brian: Awesome.

Quinn: Great. That's awesome. Ours on Twitter is ImportantNotImp because of the character limit, and it drives me crazy every day of my life, so good for you. Jason, man, thank you so much for your time today, and Jesus, man, for all that you do. I'm glad you took that first ride with the NYFD, and decided to translate that into helping folks that don't have systems like that, and you're building them from the ground up. That is-

Brian: Pretty incredible, man.

Jason Friesen: Thank you very much, and thank you for the opportunity to share with you. I love what you guys are doing, and I was going through your past episodes. You've got some really impressive guests that I normally wouldn't have been exposed to, so thanks for hunting these people out, and hopefully I can help set you up with a couple others.

Quinn: Awesome, man.

Brian: Yeah, we'll take those introductions.

Quinn: Well, thanks so much, and hopefully we'll talk to you soon.

Brian: Hopefully you find some time to surf down there.

Quinn: Yeah, that's right.

Jason Friesen: All right. Thanks a lot.

Quinn: All right. Take care.

Jason Friesen: Thanks to both of you. Have a good one.

Brian: See you later, Jason. Thanks.

Jason Friesen: Bye-bye.

Quinn: Thanks to our incredible guest today, and thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute or awesome workout or dish-washing, or fucking dog-walking late at night, that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at It has all the news most vital to our survival as a species.

Brian: And you can follow us all over the internet. You can find us on Twitter at ImportantNotImp ... That's just so weird. Also, on Facebook and Instagram at ImportantNotImportant, Pinterest and Tumblr, the same thing, so check us out, follow us, share us, like us. You know the deal, and please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this, and if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple Podcasts. Keep the lights on, thanks.

Quinn: Please.

Brian: You can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player, and at our website,

Quinn: Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jamming music, to all of you for listening, and finally, most importantly, to our moms for making us. Have a great day.

Brian: Thanks, guys.

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